NL East Wrap: Braves ride three HRs to victory

NL East Wrap: Braves ride three HRs to victory
August 20, 2011, 3:17 am

Braves 4, Diamondbacks 2

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ATLANTA -- Chipper Jones is feeling as good as he has all year.

So good, in fact, that everyone can quit speculating he might retire.

Jones homered for the second night in a row and third time on the homestand, helping the Atlanta Braves to a 4-2 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks in a matchup of NL playoff contenders Friday night.

He also ended any speculation this might be his last year, though he had said as far back as spring training that he intended to play out the remainder of a 42 million contract that runs through 2012.

"I feel like I'm contributing," the 39-year-old Jones said. "Now, am I putting up numbers like I did in the late '90s and early 2000s? No. But I'm still helping us win ballgames."

Michael Bourn and Brian McCann also homered for the Braves, accounting for the rest of their runs. Derek Lowe combined with four relievers on a six-hitter, leading Atlanta to its fourth win in five games against the two best teams in the NL West.

The Braves took three of four from the San Francisco Giants, winning the finale of that series 1-0 Thursday night on Jones' solo homer.

Last season, Jones considered retiring in the midst of a terrible slump, turned things around, then tore up his left knee in August. That made him more determined to come back for 2011, and he never seriously considered cutting out on a contact that will pay him another 14 million next season.

"This is definitely not a situation where I'm going to say I'm retiring at the end of the year," Jones said. "I feel like I've played well this year."

Manager Fredi Gonzalez isn't thinking ahead to next season, but he was glad to hear Jones put off any talk of retirement. The third baseman has shaken off several nagging injuries to hit .275 with 12 homers and 56 RBIs.

"He's a big presence in our lineup," Gonzalez said, "and in that locker room."

Brewers 6, Mets 1

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NEW YORK -- Angry at himself, Prince Fielder had a few harsh words for himself.

That's not how reliever Tim Byrdak heard it. At least not at first, and that's where the trouble began.

Fielder hit a pair of RBI singles and later confronted Byrdak in a late dustup that caused the benches and bullpens to empty, and the streaking Milwaukee Brewers waited out a rain delay of nearly three hours before beating the lost-at-home New York Mets 6-1 Friday night.

"It's all settled now. It's cool," Fielder said.

Shaun Marcum pitched the Brewers to their 20th win in 23 games, giving them a season-high 7-game lead in the NL Central. They closed out this testy victory at 12:51 a.m.

The Mets, meanwhile, set a most dubious record. They became the first team in major league history to lose the opening game in their first 10 homestands of a season, STATS LLC said.

Only a couple thousand fans were still at Citi Field at the end. Those who left early missed the Fielder-Byrdak problems in the eighth inning. There were no punches or ejections.

Fielder, who delighted Mets fans by signing dozens of autographs before the game, kept doing more damage against their team. He already was 2 for 2 with two walks when he came up in the eighth, and Byrdak's first pitch was a fastball at Fielder's chest that backed him away from the plate.

"The pitch was fine," Fielder said.

Fielder grounded out on the next pitch, then took a sudden right turn after hitting first base, curling back to intercept Byrdak on the way to the dugout.

"I was talking about myself," Fielder said. "He said something I didn't like."

"I had a question I had to get off my chest," he said.

Mets manager Terry Collins, catcher Josh Thole and plate umpire Angel Campos intervened to prevent any escalation between the big slugger and slightly built reliever.

"He said something coming out of the box, I said something back," Byrdak said. "I was real surprised. It was said in passing, I thought it would stay that way."

"I thought it was directed towards me. The whole thing was blown out of proportion," he said.

Order was quickly restored and Brewers reliever Francisco Rodriguez, traded from the Mets to Milwaukee during the All-Star break, put his arm around New York bullpen catcher Dave Racaniello as they headed back to the bullpens.

Padres 4, Marlins 3

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SAN DIEGO -- With the San Diego Padres out of playoff contention, every day is an audition for next year. Ask Erik Hamren.

The rookie reliever limited the damage in a bases-loaded situation with a big strikeout of pinch-hitter Mike Stanton in the Padres' 4-3 victory over the slumping Florida Marlins on Friday night.

Kyle Blanks hit a two-run homer and made a great catch in left field, but it was the effort from San Diego's bullpen that proved key.

Five relievers combined to limit the Marlins to two hits in 3 2-3 innings. But there was perhaps no moment bigger than when Hamren came in to protect a 4-2 lead with the bases loaded and one out in the sixth inning in relief of Wade LeBlanc.

Hamren fooled Stanton on a slider for the second out, then walked Emilio Bonifacio on four pitches to force in a run before settling down to strike out Gaby Sanchez.

"Hamren got thrown into the fire against one of the best young hitters in the game," San Diego manager Bud Black said about the duel with Stanton. "He responded and made pitches. It should be a great learning experience and a confidence builder as well."

Hamren, who made his major league debut Aug. 1, acknowledged he's still learning not to be star-struck.

"I'm starting to move beyond that," Hamren said. "I'm starting to get more settled now, a little more comfortable. But it always lingers in the back of your head. But you just try to push that aside as much as possible."

Stanton homered in four straight games coming into Thursday's series opener. He is among the NL leaders with 27 homers and 76 RBIs. Stanton was a late scratch from the lineup with a sore left big toe.

"I did my job because I kept the lead," Hamren said. "Obviously, you don't want to give up any runs coming in. As long as we still came out with the lead, you learn to live with some mistakes because you're not going to be perfect all the time."

Hamren has seen action in eight innings over seven games since coming up from Double-A San Antonio. He is part of a young bullpen that will get a chance to prove themselves.

"We're finding out about guys," Black said. "For a lot of players, every day is a job interview. I think these guys sense that."

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